Originating in the UK in 2013, Dry January has become a prominent public health campaign, urging participants to go alcohol-free for the entirety of January. Spearheaded by Alcohol Change UK, the initiative aims to raise awareness about the health advantages of reducing alcohol consumption. This has become a yearly tradition for some Brits, with Google Trends Data revealing that interest in “Dry January” 2024 in the UK has reached an all-time high, surpassing 2023’s figures by a staggering 335%.
This is in line with Mintel’s latest report, “Gen Z: The Sober Curious Generation“, which also suggests that a significant number of Gen Z are shifting their focus away from drinking alcohol and opting instead for sober socialising.
The report found that Brits aged 20–24 are less inclined to prioritise spending on alcoholic drinks for the home than consumers aged over 75. Around a third of people aged 18–24 do not drink alcohol at all, but those who do tend to drink primarily as a treat, to relax, or to mark a special occasion. Across all generations, relaxation emerges as the primary motivation for consuming alcohol. Additionally, Gen Z stands out from older generations in terms of how little alcohol is used as a refreshment or to elevate meals. This contrast in alcohol usage suggests that for Gen Z, alcohol serves as an occasional indulgence, while for older generations, it is viewed as a habitual and relaxing refreshment.
In 2023, 40% of Gen Zers limited their alcohol consumption, compared to 50% of those over 65 who did not. Gen Zers cited a number of reasons as to why they were cutting down on their alcohol consumption. Almost two-thirds express concern about the emotional impact of alcohol, while a similar number would like to learn more about drinking mindfully.
Nutritional factors are also a driving factor as to why Gen Zers are drinking less. Around a quarter reported choosing low- and no-alcohol drinks as they have lower calorie content or due to added functional and nutritional benefits, such as vitamins and prebiotics.
Finally, almost a third noted that they choose low- and no-alcohol drinks because they are cheaper than the alcoholic versions. In 2023, wine and lager remained the top choices for alcoholic beverages in the UK. These options are preferred for their affordability compared to premium selections such as ale, stout, and cocktails.
Gen Z is moving away from alcohol-centric socialising, but what kinds of plans, occasions, and products are they choosing instead? Under half of Gen Zers reported drinking low- and no-alcohol beverages. It’s also reported that Gen Zers consume a lower carbonated soft drink intake at bars and pubs than Millennials. Instead, upgraded fruit juice with sophisticated flavours is a popular alternative among Gen Zers. Additionally, Gen Zers drink energy drinks on a night out more than twice as much as older groups.
In a previous Mintel report, “UK Lifestyles of Generation Z Market Report 2023“, the finding reveals that 36% of young adults aged 18–25 primarily socialise by frequenting bars and pubs with their peers. However, in 2023, dining out has emerged as one of the top choices for socialising, while activities such as online gaming, visiting cafes, and going to the cinema have garnered similar levels of popularity to traditional outings for drinks.
Mintel predicts that the trend away from alcohol consumption among young individuals will persist, but it might not extend to older generations, as they seem to maintain more consistent levels of alcohol consumption.